Fake ‘Bingo’ Call Leads to Criminal Charges

At most bingo halls players follow a code of etiquette closely. In most bingo halls all conversations cease as soon as the game begins. In between games no one cares about talking but talking during a game, especially a high stakes one can get players ejected from a bingo hall. Sitting in another player’s ‘lucky seat’ is a breach of etiquette but these disputes are usually resolved amicably. Players must pay close attention to the caller. It is considered rude for players to ask their neighbor what number the caller stated. One of the worst things any player can do is to call a ‘bingo’ falsely. When it happens the game is disrupted and in some cases the game may be cancelled and a new one started. For players that may have been just one number short of a bingo this is a serious breach of etiquette.

In spite of the many unwritten rules most players get along just fine. Most experienced are more than willing to help new players. Occasionally someone will deliberately disrupt a game and recently such a case happened in Covington Kentucky. 18-year-old Austin Whaley, who entered a bingo hall and yelled ‘bingo’, was cited for second-degree disorderly conduct. On February 9th Police Sgt. Richard Webster was working security at a Covington bingo hall. Whaley entered the hall with several buddies and yelled ‘bingo.’

Webster described the effects of Whaley’s actions and said “This caused the hall to quit operating since they thought someone had won. This delayed the game by several minutes and caused alarm to patrons.” Webster said the crowd of mostly elderly women did not look upon Whaley’s actions kindly. Webster stated “At first, everybody started moaning and groaning when they thought they’d lost. When they realized it wasn’t a real bingo, they started hooting and hollering and yelling and cussing. People take their bingo very seriously.”

Webster said that if Whaley had been willing to apologize for his actions he would have let him go with just a warning “But he refused to say he was sorry” said Webster. “He seemed to think he could say whatever he wanted because it was a public building. I tried to explain that that’s not the case. Just because it’s a public building doesn’t give you the right to run into a theater and yell ‘fire.’ You can’t go into a ballpark and yell ‘out,’ because people could stop the game.”

Thanks to his false bravado Whaley ended up in court in front of Kenton District Judge Douglas Grothaus. Whaley faced a $250 fine and 90n days in jail. Grothaus stated “He was remorseful in court. He was obviously a good kid who hadn’t been in trouble before. With all the other things that happen in the court system and the families you’re dealing with, you’ve got to keep a sense of humor.” The judge ordered Whaley not to say the word ‘bingo’ for six months. How the court will enforce that order is anyone’s guess.